Bombs and champions among former Detroit Pistons who became coaches

Jerry Stackhouse is but one former Pistons player to try his hand at coaching.
Jerry Stackhouse is but one former Pistons player to try his hand at coaching. / Johnnie Izquierdo/GettyImages
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Bill Laimbeer

One of the most beloved players in Pistons history (as well as one of the most hated in league history) is none other than Bill Laimbeer, the backbone of the Bad Boys that won back-to-back NBA championships just before the Michael Jordan-era began in earnest. Despite his on-court reputation for being a dirty player, his Ivy-league school background portended headier abilities. Although the Notre Dame alum never rose above the ranks of assistant coach in the NBA, he had some very real and sustained success as a Head Coach in the WNBA. His most notable WNBA success came while holding the clipboard for the Detroit Shock, where he led the franchise to three league championships and two Coach of the Year awards.

Isiah Thomas

For many, Zeke would have been the first one to come to mind when contemplating who’d be on this list. He’s renowned in Detroit for his prowess as a great player, while generally regarded as a failure as a head coach. His first NBA gig came via the Indiana Pacers and, while unspectacular, wasn’t the dumpster fire that his next job would end up being. As coach of the Pacers, Thomas managed to lead his team to the postseason in each of his three seasons at the helm. Unfortunately, Isiah wasn’t able to get them out of the first round of the playoffs in any of his three attempts. His next coaching gig was in New York, but the Knicks initially hired him to be their President of Basketball Operations. His reward for performing so terribly in that role was to be give him additional responsibility, coming in the form of the head coaching gig. Predictably, that only made matters worse, and he was fired following the 2007-’08 season.

Dave DeBusschere

One cannot leave Dave DeBusschere off of this list, as he is the only one on it who played for the Pistons while serving as their head coach at the same time! At just 24 years old, DeBusschere became the youngest coach in NBA history when the Pistons asked him to do more for the team than average the double-double he was already contributing. During this period of double duty, the Pistons had a mere .356 winning percentage, and DeBusschere resigned from his second job after three seasons.

Despite the tough times Pistons fans have been subjected to since Tom Gores bought the franchise, this is a team with a storied history full of great talents no matter what angle one examines them from. There's no telling if anyone on the current roster will coach in the future, but it's not hard to picture Cade Cunningham someday roaming the sidelines.